A popular statement some of my Dad and Mom friends say when talking about travel with kids is “Yeah, we’re going to wait to do DC until Suzy and/or Jimbo are older so that they’ll appreciate it more”.
This makes me chuckle because Astronaut Harrison has been to Washington, DC a lot in his six and a half years and I think he’s appreciated it every visit. The first time was when he was seven months old, then again at 19 months followed by 2 trips per year at ages 4, 5, and 6 (we’re planning the second visit this year for sometime around Thanksgiving). I can tell you with confidence that DC is not just for older kids and you know I’ve got the photos to prove it!
I’ve decided to put together a guide of Astronaut Harrison’s favorite places to stay, eat and have fun during our many visits to the District.
Today’s post is all about where to stay, and I have to say that DC has a lot of great places to stay in a variety of locations.
The most important part of having a great visit to DC with small kids is: Location, Location, Location. Don’t be tempted by the cheap rates out in the suburbs: pick a location right in the middle of the action (if you time your visit right, you can find some amazing deals and be right on the doorstep of the best places to go in DC). Staying steps away from must see spots means the kids have more energy for activities inside the museums rather than using it all up just getting there.
On our many trips to DC we’ve stayed just about everywhere in and around DC. Please: Learn from my experience! I’ll break it down for you:
Arlington/Alexandria/other suburbs - Don’t be tempted by the low rates, it’s not worth it! The secret to having a great trip to DC with kids is to spend as little time as possible traveling, waiting, and being able to head back to the hotel for a break before heading back out to explore.
Between Logan and Dupont Circles - It’s a little quieter, but a walk or Uber ride to get anywhere and not much in the way of kid-friendly dining options close by. What about the Metro you say? At least a 10 minute walk (more if your kids are cranky) to the nearest station.
NoMa - Up and coming part of town but still an Uber or Metro ride to most family friendly locations and the nearest Metro station is a hike if you are staying in the newer hotels near Union Market (some do offer shuttles to the Metro and Union stations but it still means time spent standing and waiting instead of exploring).
Penn Quarter/Chinatown/Gallery Place - I feel like a major shmuck for just figuring this out but our last trip was the first time we stayed in this area and, it was absolutely perfect. Cheaper parking (garages all over so you don’t have to pay the $40+ per night rate other hotels usually charge), every possible type of restaurant within walking distance, Metro entrances just a crosswalk away, and SO much more.
Our last visit we stayed at the Pod DC hotel in Penn Quarter. It is right across the street from the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro station, has three dining/social locations onsite (including a fantastic diner that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and offers an experience for the traveler who doesn’t need everything included with the “standard" hotel experience.
They call their rooms “efficient” and I have to agree. We had everything we needed during our stay (including digital streaming from Harry’s iPad to the room’s TV and probably the fastest free hotel wifi I’ve ever seen), saved money, were a lot closer to all of our destinations, and…they have bunk bed rooms! I mean, how perfect is that for a Dad and son trip to the city? I got some major dad points as soon as Harry found out about that.
Their onsite restaurant is not your typical hotel restaurant (it’s WAY better): The Crimson Diner features southern classics, including sausage gravy and biscuits topped with fried chicken that I was completely surprised by at breakfast, a killer burger for lunch, and meatloaf that I have since tried copying at home. Harry’s favorite? Fresh donuts from District Doughnut every day. For those not traveling solo with a six year old, they also have a roof-top bar and a massive whisky bar onsite.
Pod DC was everything we needed (close to everything, access to great dining and comfortable) without the fluff that most hotels offer as amenities that few family travelers ever actually use. I have a feeling we’ll be staying there again on our next Dad/Astronaut visit.
Now that you know where to stay, come back next Monday for our picks on the best kid friendly activities away from the National Mall, and the week after that we’ll share our secrets to exploring the museums in a way your kids will be talking about for years.
Thank you to the Pod DC hotel for helping us have a fantastic trip and to Modus Hotels for sponsoring this post.
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